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*** UPDATED *** Hang in there, Carlos!

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* Tonight’s thought is: Hope.

My friend Carlos Hernandez-Gomez underwent surgery today at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee.

Carlos has been very sick the last several months. He has cancer.

Those of us who know the longtime Chicago reporter (WBEZ, CLTV) are just heartbroken at his illness. But the man has plenty of fight left in him and he even went back to reporting for a while.

His latest update on his FaceBook page reads…

Heading to Froedtert Hospital for my radical and God-willing life-saving surgery

Carlos’ colleague Judy Garcia posted this update earlier today…

He went into surgery about 7:30 this morning and is expected out some time after 3:30. He will initially be in ICU — no flowers, only 2 visitors at a time for 15 mins at a time. All prayers gratefully accepted!

Carlos is an avid reader of this blog, so please take some time tonight and tomorrow morning to send him some love. Thanks.

*** UPDATE - 1:22 am *** From Randi’s FaceBook page

The surgery is over, and it went very well. The doctor removed all cancer in his abdomen and pumped it with chemo to ensure all cells are gone!!! Thank you for your concerns and your prayers and we will have another I can see him, could be a few hours. [8 hours ago]

Just left intensive care, where Carlos was entertaining me and the entire nursing staff. They told me not to expect him to be talking, that would have been so out of character. [about an hour ago ]

Carlos and I thank everyone for their continued prayers, they must be working. He can’t wait till he’s out of ICU so he can “face” and “tweet” updates directly to you. [about an hour ago]

Great news.

- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      


Fritchey expected to run for county board, and other political news

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) is expected to announce that he’s running for Cook County Board tomorrow. From a press release…

Long-time reformers Congressman Mike Quigley, Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, and State Representative John Fritchey will appear together tomorrow to make an important campaign announcement regarding the February 2010 Primary Election.

Fritchey is expected to run for Claypool’s seat. Claypool announced his retirement a couple of months ago.

* Speaking of the county board, a replacement has been named for Roberto Maldanado, who resigned for an appointment to the city council…

The Cook County board has a new commissioner [state trooper Edwin Reyes].

And his first act will be to vote with fellow commissioners Tuesday to override Todd Stroger’s veto of a sales tax rollback.

* Don Rose looks at the US Senate race and opines

The way it looks now, Hoffman would have the best chance against Kirk, Giannoulias would have a harder time but likely get by. Jackson, should she manage a primary upset, could easily lose the general election.

The reasoning is that former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman has the reform chops. Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias would be hampered by his past. And Cheryle Jackson was Rod Blagojevich’s spokesperson.

That’s not unreasonable, but way too early. We still don’t know yet if Hoffman can do what it takes to win an election. He’s totally untested.

* Democratic Congressman Bill Foster is slammed in a new NRCC ad which ties him to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an alleged “50 percent cut” to Medicare. Watch it


[By the way, I’m now linking to videos because some people with mobile devices can’t see the embeds here. Hope this helps. Also, the new web design will hopefully be unveiled in a few weeks, so that may solve the problem.]

* Related…

* McCain endorses Kirk for Senate: “Mark Kirk will restore honest government to Illinois, strengthen our national security, fight for veterans and bring fiscal discipline to Washington,” McCain told a gathering of veterans in Glenview. He then appeared at a fund-raiser at a private home expected to net about $500,000.

* GOP far from settled on Senate nod: Caprio, who helped gather endorsers for the letter, said he’s been open about the fact that Hughes paid him $10,000 to help set up a citizens’ group to fight a proposed state income tax. Caprio also said he will be a consultant on the Hughes campaign. None of that detracts, of course, from his belief, he said, that Hughes has the energy and “the commitment to mainstream Republican values” that voters want.

* Will the immigrant story play in 2010?: Krishnamoorthi said he’s aware as he travels the state that he might have to respond to a heated cross-examination about how Illinois is outsourcing tech jobs to places like India. But he’s not worried about double-edged swords. He exudes a palpable American folksiness — just call him Raja, he says — that is the antithesis of foreign. “Despite what’s swirling in the greater immigration debate,” Krishnamoorthi said, “people still want to hear that it is possible to reaffirm the highest values of our country and attain the classic American dream.”

* Gov. Pat Quinn: “There’s a lot of ankle-biters out there running for office,” he said. “They’re going to tear me down, but I think the people of Illinois know I’m good and true when it comes to standing up for them.”

* Sen. Kirk Dillard seeks GOP nod for governor: “I want to announce to the world and the nation that Illinois is once again open to business, and I’m going to have the most aggressive job creation agenda that the state has ever seen. And among them is reaching out and knowing that any businessperson, whether it’s small business or large, like ConocoPhillips, can call the governor and talk about what their needs are, what problems they may have. I know the (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency) is a huge problem for places like ConocoPhillips, and we need to have somebody help cut through red tape, so we do not slow down the creation of jobs in Illinois.”

* IL Review asks GOP gubernatorial candidates “How would you fix the budget?

* Lane Evans still has his smile - Former lawmaker Lane Evans forced to face challenges of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia

* Tom Swiss: Is There Any Doubt Ultra-Liberal Rich Miller is a Democratic Hack?

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


A self-serving rant from Blagojevich

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* I had extensive excerpts from Rod Blagojevich’s new book in Capitol Fax today. The Associated Press has also obtained an advance copy and has a story up now. The book is pretty much what you’d expect. Self-serving, self-righteous, blames everyone but himself

He says his discussions about Obama’s possible successors amounted to “ordinary and routine politicking.” […]

“[US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald] didn’t stop a crime spree. He stopped me from doing a lot of good for a lot of people,” Blagojevich writes.

More…

Blagojevich writes that he eventually appointed Roland Burris, in part because of Burris’ famously big ego. No one else but Burris would accept the appointment and fight to be seated under the circumstances, Blagojevich says.

Pretty good insight by Blagojevich.

* Analysis by NPR’s Frank James

The AP story leads with the information provided by Blagojevich that the Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to Obama and a former North Side Chicago congressman wanted Blagojevich to name a “placeholder” to his congressional seat so Emanuel could reclaim the seat in two years and continue his march to become Speaker of the House.

It was well known at the time that Obama named Emanuel to lead his White House staff that Emanuel was conflicted not only because he harbored the hope of becoming the first Jewish speaker but also because he has young children and feared the grinding chief of staff’s job would prevent him from seeing them.

So Emanuel having such a conversation with Blagojevich, if it indeed occurred, probably wouldn’t shock anyone who’s followed his career. By mentioning Emanuel in this way, Blagojevich is likely trying to make the case that wheeling and dealing was something everyone in Illiinois politics was doing.

Blagojevich also knew that media outlets like the AP couldn’t resist including the Emanuel stuff, no matter how unsurprising.

The AP also includes Blagojevich’s story about his hare-brained scheme to appoint Lisa Madigan to the vacant Senate seat. Somehow, Blagojevich figured he could use that appointment to cut a deal with Speaker Madigan on health care and the capital bill. But as I reminded subscribers this morning, Madigan refused to return the governor’s calls or even be in the same room with the man for months before Blagojevich was arrested.

…Adding… If you want to see Blagojevich’s media appearance itinerary, click here.

* Related…

* Quinn Opens Du Quoin Mansion, Refers to Himself as “Repairman”

* More trustee applicants emerge

* One step ahead, two steps back on U of I board

* U. of Ill. trustees who resigned now left hanging

* City Colleges borrowing state politics

* “Hundreds of University of Illinois students petition Governor Pat
Quinn to retain David Dorris for Board of Trustees”

* Resignation Recommendation Up in the Air for U of I’s President and Chancellor

* U. of I. legal bill for scandal: $440,000

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* If a movie was made about Pat Quinn’s life, which actor do you think would play the governor? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      


Lang claims tax hike bill killed for purely political reasons

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* Blogger and former GOP state Rep. Cal Skinner was at a McHenry County Democratic function the other day when Rep. Lou Lang spoke. Lang claimed that 12 House Republicans expressed a willingness to vote for a tax hike to balance the state budget, but that their leader, Tom Cross, killed it for political reasons

“There was one woman on the Republican side of the aisle that I sat beside in a meeting in the Governor’s office after the [failed tax hike] vote,” Lang elaborated.

“She’s a person who actually cares about human services.

“She was sitting there crying real tears.

“Do you recall you voted ‘No?’” Lang said he asked.

“This is the kind of hypocrisy that goes on in Springfield on a daily basis,” he added.

I’ve never heard the 12 number before. It’s always been 8 HGOPs.

Anyway, Lang bottom-lines the “real” HGOP objection…

“The reason Republicans wouldn’t cross over was because they wanted a greater say in reapportionment and wanted $2-3 billion more cut.”

They were also bone tired of being beaten over the head by Speaker Madigan at every turn.

* Related…

* Illinois textbook crunch: State funding cut has schools scrambling: The elimination of a state-funded textbook program has left some school administrators scrambling to figure out how to make up the funds without jeopardizing education.

* What if the construction deal collapses?: Of course that would concern me,” said state Sen. Pamela Althoff, a McHenry Republican who supported the construction plan. “The program in and of itself - the capital projects - would remain stable. The problem again would be finding revenue streams. That would be difficult in this climate. It all boils down to: Where do we get the money?”

* Mike Lawrence: Bureaucratic bloat saps state resources

* Expect to pay more for candy, shampoo

* Here is a nice, quick breakdown of the new taxes and fees

* Taxes on hard liquor, candy, hygiene products headed up Tuesday

* Illinois shoppers brace for higher taxes at grocery

* Many Corner Liquor Stores Upset Over Higher Tax

* Bellwood, East Dundee sales-tax rates top Chicago’s 10.25%

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


*** UPDATED w/ Additional Thoughts *** Speaker Madigan’s property tax practice examined

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* The Sun-Times waded through property tax cases in Cook County and identified “hundreds” of clients of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s law firm. So far though, there isn’t much to report

Over the past nine years, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s law firm has made $171,000 by seeking property tax breaks for developers who get state financing to build low-income housing, records show.

His firm’s payments came through the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the state agency that financed those projects.

Records also show the firm of Madigan & Getzendanner helped another state contractor save about $300,000 in property taxes on the Atrium Mall and food court it operates inside the James R. Thompson Center, the state’s main office building in Chicago.

The payments referenced in the article are processed through IHDA, but that’s because IHDA administers a developers’ escrow fund. That’s not state money. But you won’t find find that tidbit until you get to the end of the story.

The lawsuit mentioned in the piece involved a different law firm and came about after Rod Blagojevich refused to renew the company’s lease at the Thompson Center. Attorney General Madigan dropped out of the case after Blagojevich demanded a private attorney be used. The outside law firm lost the case at the trial and appellate level and is now appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Speaker Madigan has come under fire from Cook County Assessor James Houlihan for mixing his political power with his law firm, but the Sun-Times article shows that Houlihan has often agreed with Madigan’s firm.

One of the more interesting pieces of the story is the sidebar, which looks at some of Madigan’s clients…

* New Frontier Management, owned by indicted Republican Party power-broker William F. Cellini

* Harlem Irving Companies, owned by Michael Marchese, a friend of Mayor Daley’s and shopping-center magnate

* The Columbian, a city-subsidized condo building built by developer Allison S. Davis

* East Lake Management Corp.,owned by developer Elzie Higginbottom

* State Rep. Monique Davis

* Ali D. Ata, a former state official who has pleaded guilty to tax charges

Everybody who is anybody. Also, it’s interesting that Madigan also does work for members. Or, at least one member.

Madigan’s law firm has been looked at several times over the years by the feds. Nothing’s ever come of it. But you can easily see why Lisa Madigan would’ve had to deal with a lot of trouble if she had decided to run for governor. Articles like today’s would be popping up all the time.

…Adding… I would say, though, that Speaker Madigan is really playing with fire with this Joe Berrios for Cook County Assessor candidacy. Berrios is HDO’s godfather, and is a Statehouse lobbyist who helped convinced Madigan to enact the new video gaming law. He’s also a member of the Board of Review, which Madigan’s firm is in front of all the time.

Madigan is just asking for big trouble with this one. And he’ll probably get it.

* Related…

* Ask Blago: Blago is HILARIOUS! Listeners can call in and talk to him about anything that’s on their minds. The majority of the program is taken up with Blago’s rants about greedy politicians and how the government is corrupting society, etc. He tosses around the phrase “When I was governor” approximately once every 30 seconds, and he loves to point the finger at his enemies in Illinois politics and tell his callers why those people are to blame for absolutely everything that’s wrong with the world. Some people call in to discuss serious issues, like veterans benefits. Other people call to tell Rod how great he was during his recent performance at Second City, etc.

* Marin: Remorseless Fawell still not ready for reform : It was not unlike watching Gov. Quinn’s surreal news conference last week, when he vetoed the campaign finance reform bill he had previously hailed as “landmark legislation.” Making the event even crazier was the presence of Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who triumphantly passed that lousy, loophole-ridden legislation in hopes that the public wouldn’t see it for what it was. But the public did, forcing them all into retreat as they swore they’d do better next time.

* Kadner: You can’t get rid of Ruff: Under Illinois law, all township supervisors, trustees and clerks voted out of office in April must leave by the third Monday of the following month, which was May 18 this year. But township assessors and collectors get to remain in office until Jan. 1 of the following year. As far as I can tell, there are only five township collectors left in Illinois.

* Editorial: A good day for democracy

* Statehouse Insider: A most unusual veto ceremony

* Keep pressure on politicians; scare them a bit

* PJ Star: Veto the first step, now give campaign bill some teeth

* We need honorable public servants

* SJ-R Opinion: Redistricting reform must be a priority

* Lawmakers want say on tollway watchdog

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Quinn uses AV powers on pay raises, sales tax

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* Gov. Quinn used his amendatory veto power again the other day. This time, it was on legislative pay raises…

Gov. Pat Quinn is taking aim at lawmakers’ annual cost of living raises as a way to help the state’s bottom line.

Legislators had forfeited their annual raise this year, but on Friday Quinn used his amendatory veto power to go even further and propose eliminating yearly pay raises for good.

Lawmakers automatically receive a yearly raise to reflect the rate of inflation unless they vote not to take it, as they did this year in a nod to the state’s budget woes.

“Help the state’s bottom line”? More like “Help Quinn’s reelection.” Very Blagojevichian.

From the governor’s AV

Section 35 prohibits officials from receiving a cost of living adjustment in fiscal year 2010. Given our current fiscal situation, that is an appropriate decision. I applaud the General Assembly for taking this difficult step. I propose that we go even further: eliminate the automatic cost of living adjustment for every year going forward.

More

[Quinn] said such salary adjustments should be done away with in all future years, not just the current budget. He suggested lawmakers change the legislation to garner his approval.

The potential problem is that lawmakers aren’t scheduled to take up the governor’s vetoes until October. So while the General Assembly voted to do away with raises, and Quinn said there shouldn’t be any - ever, the actual law putting a stop to the bigger paydays has now been rejected by Quinn.

It remained unclear Friday if Quinn’s action would trigger higher paychecks for state officials in the meantime.

Lawmakers could accept Quinn’s changes during the October session, or override the change and enact the original pay-raise prohibition. If they do nothing, the prohibition on the raises vanishes.

* And speaking of amendatory vetoes, Gov. Quinn finally acted on the so-called STAR Bonds bill, legislation which I’ve called “The worst bill ever”…

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday he would ask the Legislature to cut in half the sales tax benefits sought for [Metro East] University Town Center, a proposed $1 billion entertainment-retail development in Glen Carbon.

The original bill allowed the developer to use all state sales tax money to pay for the project. Quinn cut that in half

Quinn would limit the incentive to 50 percent of new sales tax revenue and only up to 50 percent of total project costs.

Quinn

“We didn’t want to be financing the entire project from state money,” Quinn said after a news conference unrelated to the bill. “We thought, ‘There’s room for the developer to put money in.’”

That’s far more reasonable than the original legislation. But the developer, of course, isn’t happy

“His amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1909 (SB 1909) unnecessarily jeopardizes 10,000 construction jobs and 3,100 full-time equivalent jobs at a time when they are desperately needed,” Holland added. “It is difficult to understand how it is possible to underestimate these tough economic times and the devastating impact of unemployment.”

More

“I hope they haven’t made a mistake that could end up costing us the biggest economic opportunity in our area in probably the last 15 years,” [state Rep. Tom Holbrook] added. “We compete with Missouri, a state that has more incentives. We have higher unemployment. We needed to do something to hook a major development to our area.”

I mostly agree with the Belleville News-Democrat’s take

It’s a change that better protects the interest of the taxpayers while still providing an incredibly sweet incentive to developers. Quinn points out, correctly, that as the bill was written, it was possible that the developer might gain more financially than the taxpayers. The state Department of Revenue estimates the state and local governments might lose $15 million a year in tax revenue, mainly by cannibalization of sales tax-producing businesses in nearby communities.

By scaling back the incentive, Quinn ensures that the state treasury will immediately share in the benefits of any development. We’re still not thrilled with the idea of putting so much public money into private business, but state leaders believe incentives are needed to spur development.

We urge lawmakers to approve this change. If a developer isn’t willing to pay for half of the cost of a project, it probably shouldn’t be built.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Could a primary be good for Quinn?

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column looks at the Dan Hynes vs. Pat Quinn Democratic primary

There’s been quite a bit of private grumbling by Democratic county party chairmen and women and other party leaders about Comptroller Dan Hynes’ decision to run in the February primary against Gov. Pat Quinn.

They worry that Hynes will unnecessarily divide the party yet again and serve as a constant reminder to voters that Quinn was Rod Blagojevich’s mostly silent lieutenant governor for six years. Hynes’ bid, they worry, will only help the Republican Party.

That very well may be true. If Hynes loses the primary after spending millions of dollars tying Rod Blagojevich around Pat Quinn’s neck, then Quinn could be served up on a platter in the general election. The best thing the Republicans have going for them right now in this Democratic state is Rod Blagojevich’s ignominious legacy, so any help they can get from the Democratic Party would be eagerly welcomed.

But a tough primary race also could turn out to be a good thing for Quinn.

Quinn has never won a top-tier race. He lost a general election to George Ryan for secretary of state in 1994. Two years later, Quinn lost a Democratic primary to Dick Durbin for U.S. Senate.

History shows that Quinn’s campaign skills and instincts are questionable, at best. Nobody really knows if he has what it takes deep down inside to win the big one. A hot primary race will provide an opportunity to test Quinn’s ability to hold off the Republicans next fall. If he loses to Hynes in February, he probably wouldn’t have won in November, either. If he decisively defeats Hynes in February, he may settle some nervous Democratic stomachs.

Quinn is getting better at the game. He hired a top-notch fundraiser in David Rosen, who helped the campaign rake in more than $300,000 in June alone (trouble is, Quinn has yet to settle on the rest of his senior campaign team, even though the election now is kicking into a much higher gear).

Quinn always has railed against party slatemaking, particularly in Cook County. One of Quinn’s demands during negotiations over the campaign finance reform bill was a provision to prevent the Democratic Party of Illinois from slating and financing candidates. The governor demanded that particular “reform” back when Lisa Madigan, the daughter of the state party chairman, widely was believed to be gearing up to run against Quinn.

But, the other day Quinn refused to join Hynes’ request that the Cook County Democratic Central Committee avoid slating statewide candidates. After delivering a long, rambling response which didn’t even come close to answering the question, Quinn was pressed again on the issue and said, “What they do is up to them.” During the slating meeting, Quinn reportedly asked for the party’s endorsement.

So now that he’s in a position of power and has the advantage of incumbency, Quinn appears to be beginning to understand that he needs to use whatever leverage he can to achieve a win. At least he demonstrated it on this issue.

The Cook County thing may have been a cynical move, it may not have even been the “right” thing to do, but what some reformer candidates never will understand is that you can’t govern if you don’t win. Quinn has too often been one of “those” candidates. He could get clobbered in the 2010 general election with that sort of attitude.

So, yes, Hynes could definitely harm Quinn and the Democratic chances next year with the upcoming primary battle. Ominously, Hynes’ campaign press releases to date have often attempted to tie Quinn to Blagojevich.

As any loyal party member should do, Hynes ought to think long and hard about how far he can go before he damages his own side, no matter the outcome. The last two Republican gubernatorial primaries were so nasty and divisive that they contributed significantly to their party’s general election losses. And the last time an incumbent Democratic governor lost a primary, in 1976, the Republicans won the governor’s mansion and held on to power for 26 years.

On balance, though, I think Quinn probably needs this primary race. It’ll give us all a chance to see what he’s really made of.

Your thoughts?

* Meanwhile, John Kass has some kind words for 19th Warder Dan Hynes and is not all that kind ot Pat Quinn…

Quinn, also a nice fellow who portrays himself as a reformer, sold out his own reform legislation in a political deal. He negotiated a provision with the legislature that would have prevented the state Democrats from endorsing a gubernatorial candidate. In exchange, he let the legislators gut the work of his blue-ribbon reform commission.

“That was his ‘landmark’ legislation which he testified for,” Hynes said, “and that was the product of a deal he cut to try to eliminate the party’s endorsement of [state Atty. Gen.] Lisa Madigan. That’s basically what he did. Then it turns out that Lisa doesn’t run for governor, so he didn’t need the ‘landmark’ legislation anymore.”

That’s a pretty good analysis by Hynes.

* And the Tribune looks at the flip-flop effect in the primary

The governor has been a frequent target for Comptroller Dan Hynes, Quinn’s Feb. 2 Democratic primary challenger, who contends the governor’s flip-flops represent a failure to lead.

If such criticism resonates with voters, Quinn’s meandering ways could become a thorny issue, said Charles Wheeler, a former statehouse reporter who teaches at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

“It’s kind of inside baseball,” Wheeler said, “but it becomes a liability when it allows people to present you as an ineffective leader.”

* Related…

* Kirk Dillard Press Release: Quinn’s Lack of Leadership on Jobs and Economic Recovery Hurts Illinois’ Workers & Job Creators

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

Rich may do more with this later -but if you want to get ahead of the curve- you can check out the details of the IL’s new taxes from the Capital Bill in these articles…

* Expect to pay more for candy, shampoo (Best Breakdown of new taxes)

* Here is a nice visual breakdown of the new taxes and fees

* Bellwood, East Dundee sales-tax rates top Chicago’s 10.25%

The 10.25 percent sales tax applied to general merchandise purchases in Chicago is one of the highest in the state, but it’s not the highest.

That distinction belongs to the sales-tax levies in west suburban Bellwood, where 11.5 percent is added to sales in two specially designated business development districts and 10.5 percent is added in the rest of the town.

* Support lacking in Springfield for video poker ban

* State retirees angry about dental insurance hikes

Retired state workers are angry, but Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration still plans to impose modest monthly premiums for retiree dental insurance beginning Oct. 1

The plan will save the state $12 million a year, officials say.[…]

Alka Nayyar, spokeswoman for Quinn’s Department of Central Management Services, said imposing dental premiums on retirees is “one of the many tough decisions the governor has had to make to help cut costs and get the state’s financial situation back on track.”

Until now, state retirees didn’t have to pay premiums for dental coverage. The new premiums — $11 monthly for members, $17 for a member and one dependent, and $19.50 for members plus two or more dependents — are the same amounts paid by active employees.

* New County Commissioner could be Named Today

After months of dealmaking , Cook County Commissioners are scheduled to meet tomorrow to overturn a veto of sales tax cut. But some political shuffling may leave them without the necessary votes.[…]

That’s because Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, who was one of the 14 votes to cut the sales tax, left the board for a seat on Chicago’s City Council.

Published reports say Democratic committeemen, led by the powerful Alderman Richard Mell, have plans to meet today behind closed doors to appoint Maldonado’s replacement. Just in time for tomorrow’s deadline to take on the veto.

* CPS Hit with Claims of Grade Inflation

* 1 in 5 Chicago Public High School teachers say they felt pressure to change grades last school year

Nearly a third of Chicago public high school teachers say they were pressured to change grades this past school year.

One in five report they actually raised a grade under such prodding.

And dozens of teachers — elementary and high school alike — say they believe someone changed their grades last year without their approval.

Those are the results of an unprecedented survey of more than 1,200 Chicago Teachers Union members conducted by the CTU and the Chicago Sun-Times in June and July.

* Union chief: Changing grades unfair to students, teachers

* CPS buses to be safer, greener

New technology makes it easier to track vehicles, tell where kids let off […]

Along with a $1 million federal program that will retrofit all older buses in CPS’ 1,600-bus fleet with clean-running technology in the next several months, the changes place the nation’s third-largest school system on the cutting edge of safety and green technology.

* Daley’s Mental Health Blunder (Video)

As regular readers may remember, the Chicago Department of Public Health’s new, high-tech billing system failed to submit bills to the state for six months last year. The resulting drop in reimbursements led the state to cut 2009 funding levels by $1.2 million. In turn, the city announced plans to shutter four of their 12 clinics. But when the origin of the funding shortfall came to light — thanks in large part to the reporting of the Chi-Town Daily News’s Alex Parker — the Daley administration suddenly redirected some stimulus cash to keep the clinics running.

Now, the city may once again be considering closing several clinics due to a $3 million drop in state funding. And as Parker reports today, Illinois Department of Human Services officials attribute the shortfall to the same billing problems.

* New inspector general pick a test for Daley

* Insurance protects taxpayers: Olympic organizers

Chicago’s bid team said it negotiated to move a $500 million “catastrophe” insurance policy to the front of the line of guarantees to be tapped. If that policy is exhausted, an additional $500 million in “umbrella” insurance will become available.

After that, planners could tap Game revenues to date or take out a line of credit based on $450 million projected revenues from the Games.

Only after that would organizers have to crack open city and state guarantees totaling $750 million, officials said. In addition, cancellation insurance is part of the complex plan.[…]

Also Friday, Chicago 2016 released data showing that the non-profit group has received $76.9 million, mostly from pledges and cash contributions from 1,500 individuals and organizations.

* Chicago’s Mt. Greenwood neighborhood to get TIF district

* Weis wants city to fight more suits against cops

* Illinois governor to unveil soldier portraits

* U.S., Illinois sue company for failing to install proper pollution controls

Edison International is based in Rosemead, California. Its Midwest Generation unit, based in Chicago, has been working with state officials to resolve pollution control issues for more than two years, Douglas McFarlan, a company spokesman, said.

After discussions with the state’s environmental protection agency, the company had already installed state-of-the-art mercury controls at its Joliet facility, according to a company press release issued last week.

Still, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan yesterday said the company was illegally emitting “massive amounts” of pollutants including sulfur dioxide.

Clean Air Act violations are punishable by fines of as much as $37,500 a day, depending on when they occur, according to the complaint.

* Towns fight back against Illinois American Water

* U of I Global Campus staff notified of layoffs

The University of Illinois has notified the staff of its online Global Campus program that they will be laid off.

Of the program’s 32 staffers, 20 will be laid off in six months and 12 will be laid off in one year. The employees were notified about three weeks ago. University spokesman Tom Hardy says the layoffs will be final after the September meeting of the board of trustees.

* Illinois bell tower rings again

* Insurers may reap $375 mil in ‘Cash for Clunkers’

* Argonne’s new center really computes

* Many local women bank on at-home businesses

* Free hunter safety courses available

* Jackson calls for investigation in Rockford death

* Study: More than half of children will engage in sexual behavior before 13

- Posted by Mike Murray   10 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Aug 28, 2009

* Let’s end our week with one from The Clash


Robbin’ people with a six-gun

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Afternoon roundup

Friday, Aug 28, 2009

* I’ve heard these rumors as well

Rumors are circulating that Andy McKenna may be looking to jump into the race for Governor. The former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party would join a crowded field.

I asked McKenna about those rumors last week and he said he would be helping other candidates…


* Betty Loren Maltese is out of prison

Former Cicero Town President Betty Loren Maltese is out of prison and living in a halfway house in Las Vegas.

Loren Maltese was released from a federal prison in California yesterday after serving six-and-a-half years. She and other Cicero public officials were convicted of ripping off the town for millions of dollars in an insurance scam.

Loren Maltese will stay at the halfway house for several months. In an early 2008 interview , she said she would “never go back to Cicero.”

So, apparently, she can’t be blamed for this.

* Still think that federal campaign rules are the way to go? Really?

Over the past five years, Rep. Bobby L. Rush has spent more than a tenth of his campaign’s receipts on the church he founded, a tidy tithe totaling $152,777.

It’s an example of how the campaign finance system allows candidates and office-holders to redirect funds to institutions they care about.

* Quinn closes Howe…

Gov. Pat Quinn today announced he’ll order the troubled state-run Howe Developmental Center closed.

The Tinley Park center is home to about 250 developmentally disabled clients. Quinn’s predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, last year ordered the facility be shuttered after getting pressure from advocates for the disabled who blamed more than two dozen deaths at Howe on neglectful treatment there.

The center lost its federal certification in 2007 because it failed to meet basic standards, which meant Howe also lost all its federal funding.

* WTTW’s Chicago Tonight hosted a panel discussion about old and new media last night. I was invited, but couldn’t attend…


Part of the show was based on the Community Media Workshop’s latest study of Chicago and Illinois blogs. Several political blogs were included, big and small, except for this one. Not sure why.

* Speaking of online stuff, the IL Senate Republicans have a new campaign website. The Senate Dems have a new caucus website. Kirk Dillard’s campaign site has been revamped. The Illinois Supreme Court now has a new Twitter page.

And if you have an iPhone, you’ve just gotta watch this


Hat tip and more details: Travel 2.0

[Just tried it. Pretty darned cool.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Aug 28, 2009

* The latest Milton Bradley “controversy” was foreshadowed in a Sun-Times article back in April

Milton Bradley says he’s aware of Wrigley Field’s reputation for fans who not only boo their own players, but also have a history of getting racial.

He also says he’s ready for it.

‘’I can be like that guy that you watch all the time for whatever reason,'’ he said, referring to his track record of angry outbursts and run-ins. ‘’But I really think I’ve outgrown it, a lot of the stuff that I did when I was younger.'’

Apparently, he wasn’t.

Fast-forward to this week

An angry Milton Bradley lashed out at his treatment from Cubs fans Wednesday, suggesting he has been the victim of racial abuse at Wrigley Field.

But Bradley declined to give specifics, saying no one wanted to listen to him.

“America doesn’t believe in racism,” he said sarcastically before repeating the remark. […]

“All I’m saying is I just pray the game is nine innings, so I can be out there the least amount of time as possible and go home,” he said.

* So, are Cub fans racist? Or, to be more specific, are they more racist than other baseball fans? Former manager Dusty Baker had few kind words for them

[Baker] didn’t want to revisit the racist hate mail and threats he said he received while managing the Cubs (2003-06) when asked about the Sun-Times story before his Cincinnati Reds’ game in Milwaukee. But he did say things are better for him in Cincinnati.

”Oh, yeah, Cincinnati has been great,” he told MLB.com. ”My family loves Cincinnati.”

That same article more than hinted that former manager Don Baylor felt the same way. Baker’s wife and son, by the way, claimed they stopped going to the ball park because of the hostile atmosphere.

Kosuke Fukudome wasn’t happy about that stupid “Horry Cow” t-shirt that is such a big seller at Wrigley, but he did his best to keep a lid on his comments

“But if I make a big deal out of it, it’s not going to benefit me, so I’m not going to make a big deal of it.'’

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was more blunt about that goofy “Ozzie mows Wrigley Field” t-shirt…

“That’s kinda funny, but let’s be clear: the shirts are racist. They play on stereotypes - that Hispanics do yard work and other menial jobs - and they are targated only at members of that group. On the Pujols and Zambrano ones the man is wearing a sombrero, just so there’s no confusion. Hispanics wear big, funny hats and cut our grass… ha, ha, ha!”

* The allegation goes back a ways

On December 3rd 2003, the Chicago Cubs signed one of the top free agent relievers in the game — LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins was a failed closer who proved to be an ideal set-up man, posting ERAs of 2.13 and 1.86 in 2002 and 2003 for the Twins. He was also the first of a string of players to accuse Cub fans of racist tactics and behaviors. Hawkins told Bob Nightengale that he used to receive “boos, taunts, and racial mail and phone calls” when he was with the Cubs. The implication being fans hated him (obviously) because he’s black.

After the Hawkins experiment failed, the Cubs went out and spent a lot of money on another former Twin, Jacque Jones who replaced the extremely white Jeremy Burnitz in right field. By 2006, he too claimed Cub fans were racist — and cited that Hawkins had warned him — while, at the same time, we learned that another Twin, Torii Hunter, had specifically said he would never accept a trade to the Cubs because he didn’t want to play in front of racist fans.

* I have refused to set foot in Cub Park for many years, so I cannot speak from experience here. I’ve been to a whole lot of White Sox games, however, and have yet to hear a racist taunt.

* The Question: Do you think Cub fans are more racist than other baseball fans? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      


You can’t always get everything you want

Friday, Aug 28, 2009

* The problem with reform is that everybody has a different idea of what reform should be. And if they don’t get the reform they want, they claim that no “real” reform was achieved.

A good case in point is campaign contribution caps. From today’s Tribune editorial

We’ve never favored contribution limits, because donors and candidates easily evade them.

But the Sun-Times editorial takes the complete opposite approach…

Follow the federal model and put meaningful caps on campaign donations, not ones so high they’re meaningless.

As does the Daily Herald

Start by going back to the ideas from the reform commission. Apply the federal model that limits individuals to giving $2,400 per election, or a total of $4,800 for a primary and general election. Limit PACs and all other players too. Include real limits on the amounts that can be transferred from political committees to candidates.

And after the Sun-Times’ long laundry list of reform demands, they issue this familiar demand…

Anything less, and it won’t be much reform.

As did the Daily Herald…

Anything short of all that simply will be unacceptable.

So, according to the Sun-Times and the DH, if the Tribune’s advice on campaign caps is followed during the veto session, then reform efforts have been a total failure.

Sheesh.

* Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn now has an excuse for why he gushed over the reform bill he just vetoed in testimony to committees in both legislative chambers…

In a follow-up interview, Quinn said he testified for the bill because he thought it was the only way to pass campaign limits.

“Probably the legislature would have gone home without doing anything,” Quinn said.

Sounds positively Blagojevichian. “Yes, I did it, but it’s their fault!”

* Related…

* Britt: Quinn takes charge of his indecisiveness

* Quinn vetoes campaign finance bill riddled with loopholes

* Gov. Quinn vetoes campaign caps bill - Says lawmakers need better version for veto session

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


The center ring

Friday, Aug 28, 2009

* My Sun-Times column today takes a look ahead at Campaign 2010

Think of the campaign for governor as a bloody three-ring circus.

In the ‘’Stage Left'’ ring are Democrats Gov. Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes.

Quinn has struggled to find his leadership chops since being elevated to the top job by Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment. Hynes has begun running an aggressive campaign against Quinn, labeling him an indecisive, ineffective flip-flopper.

Over on “Stage Right” are the Republican candidates.

The front-runner is state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a decent, experienced politician from DuPage County who is so decent that he cut a TV ad for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. That expression of bipartisan admiration for one of his former colleagues has prompted howls of derision from fellow candidates.

Sen. Matt Murphy, a freshman from the Northwest suburbs, made headlines last year when he led the charge for secession from Todd Stroger’s Cook County and, lately, he’s become Dillard’s harshest critic. Murphy has already aired a Downstate TV ad slamming Dillard for supporting a Stroger tax increase. The tax hike was for mass transit, but whatever. He made his point.

Sen. Bill Brady, who ran last time and impressed many with his presence and poise, has never been afraid of taking a whack at a primary opponent. He blasted Dillard for saying nice things about Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Ultraconservative campaign consultant Dan Proft reportedly has a huge stash of private money ready to use for attacks on his fellow GOP candidates. Proft loves the hatchet, and blood will certainly flow.

The other Republican candidates will also likely pile on whoever the front-runner appears to be at any given moment.

Any day now, though, the spotlight will begin shining on the center ring, and it won’t turn off until the campaign ends. The star of the center ring will be Rod Blagojevich — our former clown in chief.

Blagojevich’s new book is coming out next month. I can take a wild guess at what he will say:

‘’Springfield is bad. I was set up. House Speaker Mike Madigan is bad. I tried to give everybody health care. Senate President John Cullerton is bad. I was railroaded. Pat Quinn is bad. I did nothing wrong. Illinois news media is bad. I’m the good guy.'’

Innumerable cable TV appearances will follow, and some moronic talking heads will scream that Blagojevich was given a raw deal.

Blagojevich’s book tour will probably last right up until the February primary. Hynes has slammed Quinn for not standing up to Blagojevich. Blagojevich has said he’s convinced that Quinn was part of an evil plot to kick him out of office. Blagojevich’s book tour will be a constant distraction for Quinn.

And you can bet that any Republican gubernatorial candidate who ever supported any of Blagojevich’s ideas will also be in for a beat-down during the tour of shame. Indeed, Murphy’s ad also tried to tie Dillard to Blagojevich.

Come June, when the winning nominees start to crank up their campaigns, the spotlight will shine even more intensely on our goofy center ring as Blagojevich’s criminal trial begins. God only knows what that man will say or do.

The trial will probably last until around Labor Day, setting the stage for the final run. Blagojevich will be on everyone’s minds, and the fall campaign will most likely revolve around his horrific legacy. The center ring will remain the center of attention.

The truth is Blagojevich was such an aberration that we probably don’t have to worry about ever electing anyone else like him again. He also had only a few true friends and allies. But those facts were long ago lost in the ether. We’re in for an excruciating and mostly pointless 14 months.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


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